I don’t know about you, but just the name alone – “Casa Mingo” – had me at “hello”. It sort of rolls around the tongue, begging to be repeated. Casa Mingo! Casa Mingo …. Casa Ming-o. Mingo sounds like the name of a Starbucks barista in born in Shanghai but now living in Australia (or vice versa). But no, it is short for the name “Domingo”.
Casa Mingo serves roast chook and not much else. The waiters carry laminated menus in their shirt pockets with foreshortened descriptions. “Jamon” is “ham”, for example. Nothing flowery to it, no provence listed as a selling point. Let’s just say they know their market and it’s chicken and cider.
Casa Mingo is chock full of arcane little rules for dining. For example, only bottled beer can be consumed at the table. If you want white wine with your tasty chicken, you have to order an entire bottle. My friends shared a half bottle of red at the table (I think you can also get red by the glass at the table but don’t quote me on this. Regardless, it makes no sense). Draft beer and white wine by the glass are sold only at the stand-up bar at the back. Salad is served in a metal rectangular tray covered in plastic wrap. Dessert is like-wise prepackaged and out-sourced. Coffee to go with your flan? Nope! Walk several blocks to the Starbucks on the ground floor of the Principe Pio mall.
The bread and chicken, however, are superb. Casa Mingo is my new favorite restaurant and not because the waiters are nice. They are not. It’s because it is cheap (relatively speaking), the food’s yummy, and so very, very Spanish. It is an institution. And you do not have to dress up to go there, another huge bonus.
A few days ago, I was on the hunt for a recipe for “white gazpacho”. A cold, creamy soup with garlic, apples, and nuts, it is an Andalusian delight (my favorite so far – Cafe Sevilla’s in Granada). And so I turned to Mario Batali’s book “Spain … A Culinary Road Trip”. Perhaps it was in there? My cousin gave me the book a year ago and I am ashamed to say this is really the first time I cracked it. Not a huge fan of paella or tripe stew, I thought there was nothing in there for me. Plus, at the time I was given the book, I was really rather put off by Spain and the whole visa process.
The child of a Boeing employee, Mario grew up in Seattle and then graduated from the same high school in Madrid where my Things attend. (Six degrees of separation? Parallel lives in reverse?). In the book, Mario tools around Spain on a gastronomic pilgrimage with his dear friend actress Gwyneth Paltrow, my cookbook idol Mark Bittman, and actress Claudia Bassols, a Spaniard.
All cookbooks should be this fun. Full of photos, chatty, historically informative, the book reads more like one big Spanish travelogue. Scrumptious! Included are lists of what each traveler does not eat. Gwyneth eschews all things pork while Claudia noshs on it daily. It made me feel a whole lot better about not eating seafood.
Alas, there was no recipe for white gazpacho. ¡Que tristeza! But can you guess where Mario’s road trip ended?
You know it. ¡Casa Mingo! I am just wondering what the Spaniards thought of Mario’s polar fleece vest and orange crocs. Red pants worn by men are okay in Madrid but plastic footware is going a bit too far.